Mart’nália’s eyes are like large, limpid pools. They draw you into their world. Once you’re in, the quietude of this portal opens out into the vivacious world of song and dance – the world of samba – into which she was literally born and raised by her illustrious father Martinho de Vila. Then her mouth draws you in; the smile that adorns it is wide and beckoning. And it seems omnipresent. She laughs a lot too – shyly when she’s talking about herself, with a burst of pride when talking of her father and of Brasil and with reverence when she remembers Vinicius de Moraes to whom she pays homage on her most recent and celebrated recording Mart’nália Canta Vinicius de Moraes.
Amid laughter she tells you how much music – which is her all-consuming thrill – means to her. She speaks as she sings – in cadences not dissimilar to samba. She is also singing at the top of her game. When she does so on the repertoire of this album, her seduction is complete and it feels as if that a smiling Vinicius is also in the room with her. Seduction, after all, is what Vinicius was famous for; his poetry was filled with it. Remarkably, Mart’nália’s interpretations of Vinicius’ songs bask in seduction especially in the manner in which the lyrics whisper huskily as they come to life in the rhythm of her enunciation of the words and the hypnotism of the metaphors.
I had always hoped to speak with her; to hear what she had to say about this extraordinary project that she shared with the incomparable Arthur Maia, who has since, sadly, left us. But as Brasil struggles to find its way back to health and alegria, I knew that it was going to be a challenge. David McLoughlin – my friend, the Irishman who has gone native in São Paulo – was more than forthcoming in putting me together with Márcia Alvarez, Mart’nália’s manager, co-producer and friend.
Mart’nália herself took time off to answer my questions and listen to my effusive praise of her music and the album which some Brasilian critics seem to think less of when compared to her other work – which is where I beg to differ, of course. The album is brilliantly conceived and exquisitely executed with Mart’nália and Arthur Maia directing an ensemble of sublimely gifted musicians, who have given their all in honour of a beloved Brasilian icon, Vinicius de Moraes. What follows is an excerpt of the interview, followed by my review of the recording itself.
Raul Da Gama: Congratulations to you and Arthur and Marcia for this beautiful new album. I love it and I’m sure millions do too…
Mart’nália: Thank you very much. I’m so glad you liked the CD. Our production has been done here with so much love!
RdG: Tell me what does Vinicius mean to you – not what he means for Brasil – but for you personally?
M’n: [Without hesitating for a moment] For me Vinicius means love. He idolises and praises the woman in his lyrics. Our sufferings as women is translated and transformed into beauty! His poetry is life-giving to me!